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Version: v2.9 (Preview)

Nodes and Node Pools

After you launch a Kubernetes cluster in Rancher, you can manage individual nodes from the cluster's Node tab.

  1. Click in the top left corner.
  2. Select Cluster Management.
  3. Find the cluster whose nodes you want to manage, and click the Explore button at the end of the row.
  4. Select Nodes from the left navigation.

Depending on the option used to provision the cluster, there are different node options available.


If you want to manage the cluster and not individual nodes, see Editing Clusters.

Node Options Available for Each Cluster Creation Option

The following table lists which node options are available for each type of cluster in Rancher. Click the links in the Option column for more detailed information about each feature.

OptionNodes Hosted by an Infrastructure ProviderCustom NodeHosted ClusterRegistered EKS NodesAll Other Registered NodesDescription
CordonMarks the node as unschedulable.
DrainMarks the node as unschedulable and evicts all pods.
EditEnter a custom name, description, label, or taints for a node.
View APIView API data.
Delete**Deletes defective nodes from the cluster.
Download KeysDownload SSH key in order to SSH into the node.
Node ScalingScale the number of nodes in the node pool up or down.

* Delete option accessible via View API

Nodes Hosted by an Infrastructure Provider

Node pools are available when you provision Rancher-launched Kubernetes clusters on nodes that are hosted in an infrastructure provider.

Clusters provisioned using one of the node pool options can be scaled up or down if the node pool is edited.

A node pool can also automatically maintain the node scale that's set during the initial cluster provisioning if node auto-replace is enabled. This scale determines the number of active nodes that Rancher maintains for the cluster.

Rancher uses node templates to replace nodes in the node pool. Each node template uses cloud provider credentials to allow Rancher to set up the node in the infrastructure provider.

Nodes Provisioned by Hosted Kubernetes Providers

Options for managing nodes hosted by a Kubernetes provider are somewhat limited in Rancher. Rather than using the Rancher UI to make edits such as scaling the number of nodes up or down, edit the cluster directly.

Registered Nodes

Although you can deploy workloads to a registered cluster using Rancher, you cannot manage individual cluster nodes. All management of imported cluster nodes must take place outside of Rancher.

Managing and Editing Individual Nodes

Editing a node lets you:

  • Change its name
  • Change its description
  • Add labels
  • Add/Remove taints

To manage individual nodes, browse to the cluster that you want to manage and then select Nodes from the main menu. You can open the options menu for a node by clicking its icon (...).

Viewing a Node in the Rancher API

Select this option to view the node's API endpoints.

Deleting a Node

Use Delete to remove defective nodes from the cloud provider.

When you the delete a defective node, Rancher can automatically replace it with an identically provisioned node if the node is in a node pool and node auto-replace is enabled.


If your cluster is hosted by an infrastructure provider, and you want to scale your cluster down instead of deleting a defective node, scale down rather than delete.

Scaling Nodes

For nodes hosted by an infrastructure provider, you can scale the number of nodes in each node pool by using the scale controls. This option isn't available for other cluster types.

SSH into a Node Hosted by an Infrastructure Provider

For nodes hosted by an infrastructure provider, you have the option of downloading its SSH key so that you can connect to it remotely from your desktop.

  1. In the upper left corner, click ☰ > Cluster Management.

  2. On the Clusters page, go to the cluster where you want to SSH into a node and click the name of the cluster.

  3. On the Machine Pools tab, find the node that you want to remote into and click ⋮ > Download SSH Key. A ZIP file containing files used for SSH is then downloaded.

  4. Extract the ZIP file to any location.

  5. Open Terminal. Change your location to the extracted ZIP file.

  6. Enter the following command:

    ssh -i id_rsa root@<IP_OF_HOST>

Cordoning a Node

Cordoning a node marks it as unschedulable. This feature is useful for performing short tasks on the node during small maintenance windows, like reboots, upgrades or decommissions. When you're done, power back on and make the node schedulable again by uncordoning it.

Draining a Node

Draining is the process of first cordoning the node, and then evicting all its pods. This feature is useful for performing node maintenance (like kernel upgrades or hardware maintenance). It prevents new pods from deploying to the node while redistributing existing pods so that users don't experience service interruption.

  • For pods with a replica set, the pod is replaced by a new pod that is scheduled to a new node. Additionally, if the pod is part of a service, then clients are automatically redirected to the new pod.

  • For pods with no replica set, you need to bring up a new copy of the pod, and assuming it is not part of a service, redirect clients to it.

You can drain nodes that are in either a cordoned or active state. When you drain a node, the node is cordoned, the nodes are evaluated for conditions they must meet to be drained, and then (if it meets the conditions) the node evicts its pods.

However, you can override the conditions draining when you initiate the drain. You're also given an opportunity to set a grace period and timeout value.

Aggressive and Safe Draining Options

When you configure the upgrade strategy for the cluster, you can enable node draining. If node draining is enabled, you are able to configure how pods are deleted and rescheduled.

  • Aggressive Mode

    In this mode, pods won't get rescheduled to a new node, even if they do not have a controller. Kubernetes expects you to have your own logic that handles the deletion of these pods.

    Kubernetes also expects the implementation to decide what to do with pods using emptyDir. If a pod uses emptyDir to store local data, you might not be able to safely delete it, since the data in the emptyDir is deleted once the pod is removed from the node. Choosing aggressive mode deletes these pods.

  • Safe Mode

    If a node has stand-alone pods or ephemeral data it is cordoned but not drained.

Grace Period

The timeout given to each pod for cleaning things up so they have a chance to exit gracefully. For example, when pods might need to finish any outstanding requests, roll back transactions or save state to an external storage. If negative, the default value specified in the pod is used.


The amount of time drain should continue to wait before giving up.

Kubernetes Known Issue:

The timeout setting was not enforced while draining a node before Kubernetes 1.12.

Drained and Cordoned State

If there's any error related to user input, the node enters a cordoned state because the drain failed. You can either correct the input and attempt to drain the node again, or you can abort by uncordoning the node.

If the drain continues without error, the node enters a draining state. You'll have the option to stop the drain when the node is in this state, which then stops the drain process and changes the node's state to cordoned.

Once drain successfully completes, the node is in a state of drained. You can then power off or delete the node.

Want to know more about cordon and drain? See the Kubernetes documentation.

Labeling a Node to be Ignored by Rancher

Certain solutions, such as F5's BIG-IP integration, may require creating a node that is never registered to a cluster.

Since the node never finishes registering, it is always shown as unhealthy in the Rancher UI.

In that case, you may want to label the node to be ignored by Rancher so that Rancher only shows nodes as unhealthy when they are actually failing.

You can label nodes to be ignored by using a setting in the Rancher UI, or by using kubectl.


There is an open issue in which nodes labeled to be ignored can get stuck in an updating state.

Labeling Nodes to be Ignored with kubectl

To add a node that is ignored by Rancher, use kubectl to create a node that has the following label: ignore

Result: If you add the node to a cluster, Rancher skips syncing with this node. The node can still be part of the cluster and can be listed with kubectl.

If the label is added before the node is added to the cluster, the node is not shown in the Rancher UI.

If the label is added after the node is added to a Rancher cluster, the node is not removed from the UI.

If you delete the node from the Rancher server using the Rancher UI or API, the node is not removed from the cluster if the nodeName is listed in the Rancher settings in the Rancher API under v3/settings/ignore-node-name.